Frank Onyeka interview: Brentford midfielder compares Ivan Toney & Victor Osimhen and reflects on his remarkable journey

Frank Onyeka interview: Brentford midfielder compares Ivan Toney & Victor Osimhen and reflects on his remarkable journey

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Frank Onyeka explains what it’s like to play with Nigeria ace Victor Osimhen and Brentford star Ivan Toney; midfielder also looks back on his rise from playing barefoot to England’s top flight; watch Arsenal vs Brentford live on Sky Sports on Saturday from 5pm; kick-off 5.30pm


Brentford’s Frank Onyeka compares Victor Osimhen to his teammate Ivan Toney and adds he would love to play alongside at the West London club.

“No, no, no! He’s too expensive!” 

Frank Onyeka laughs out loud when Sky Sports playfully wonders whether he asked £100m-rated Nigeria team-mate Victor Osimhen about the possibility of joining him at Brentford during their exploits at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Bees midfielder Onyeka started every game for the Super Eagles as they reached the final in Ivory Coast before losing to the hosts. Osimhen scored just once during that run but his quality was clear to see.


The Napoli forward is in demand and with several Premier League big-spenders in the market for a frontman this summer, he could well be facing Onyeka in England next season.

“He’s a really good guy but he’s someone that wants to win,” says Onyeka when asked what it’s like to play with the highly-rated Napoli ace. “He doesn’t like to lose, even in training. He always wants to push players around him, try to encourage them. He’s a fighter.

Nigeria's Victor Osimhen and Frank Onyeka celebrate after their AFCON semi-finals win over South Africa
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Nigeria’s Victor Osimhen and Frank Onyeka celebrate after their AFCON semi-finals win over South Africa

“He’s always there to help the team, fight for the team. Even when the team is down he’ll be the first man to push the team. He never gives up. For me he was one of the best players in the tournament but people don’t really see what he does.

“Hopefully he comes to the Premier League.”

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Of course, Onyeka’s Brentford team-mate Ivan Toney is another striker top clubs could target this summer. Boss Thomas Frank reckons Toney could be worth £100m if he’s sold.

For club and country, Onyeka has first-hand experience of playing with two of the world’s top forwards. So how do they compare?

“Ivan is an all-round player, he can go anywhere, he can come down into the midfield,” says Onyeka. “Osimhen is like a target man, he wants to fight the defenders and get every ball. Both are great strikers.”

It was another Brentford striker who threw himself into the goal of the season category last weekend, though. Yoanne Wissa’s sensational overhead kick stunned west London rivals Chelsea. Onyeka was pleased to claim the assist, inadvertently popping the ball up for his team-mate.

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Brentford’s Yoane Wissa spectacular scissor-kick goal against Chelsea from all the best angles

“I was just waiting for the second ball, to try to get the ball back into the box and it was the perfect assist for Wissa! He was like ‘leave it, leave it, leave it!’ and I had to leave it for him,” he says, bursting into laughter again as he recounts his small part in the spectacular strike.

Goal of the season? “I think so. It was a good goal. I’m happy for him to score a goal like that.”

Onyeka has been a go-to player for Frank since his return from AFCON and is routinely used by the Bees boss when they come up against the most difficult opponents. Expect his industry and driving dribbles with the ball to be deployed at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday Night Football when Brentford take on in-form title challengers Arsenal.

There’s another laugh from the likeable 26-year-old – although perhaps a slightly more uncomfortable one – when Sky Sports asks him what he thought watching that same Arsenal side put five past Sheffield United before half time on Monday night. Brentford’s task is a huge one.

But really any challenge on the pitch pales into insignificance in comparison to the challenges Onyeka had to get through to arrive on this Premier League stage.

Coming from a poor background in Benin City in Nigeria, his childhood included playing football barefoot on concrete and fixing roofs after school for extra money.

Scouted, it was at a club almost 250km from home which eventually gave him the platform to have trials at FC Midtjylland in Denmark. From there things happened quickly. It was Champions League football against Liverpool and then a transfer in 2021 to newly-promoted Brentford.

Frank Onyeka playing for FC Midtjylland against Liverpool in the Champions League in 2020
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Frank Onyeka playing for FC Midtjylland against Liverpool in the Champions League in 2020

“Every time I go back home I reflect on how my journey has been,” he says. “Coming from Nigeria to Denmark to the Premier League… It wasn’t an easy journey.

“As an African kid you need to do something outside of school just to help if your family isn’t financially stable. I did that. So have other players in the Nigerian team, one or two players did the same. It’s something we have to go through as a football player.

“It was a five-hour drive away from my city, my hometown where I grew up [to Ebedei FC]. My mum wasn’t happy with me, as a young boy, leaving home to pursue the dream. In the end she could not do anything because this is something I really wanted to do growing up.

“She stopped me several times. She wanted me to study and go to university. But this is something that I really wanted to do. I put everything in it, so much energy. Knowing what you want to do you need to give everything.

“Now she’s happy! Everyone’s happy in the family. They are proud.”

Leandro Trossard tangles with Frank Onyeka
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Leandro Trossard tangles with Frank Onyeka during Arsenal’s win at Brentford in November

That inner-drive and faith in his ability is something Brentford boss Frank is calling on all of his players to access again now.

Brentford are just six points above third-bottom Luton, who have a game in hand. They have three wins in their last 16 Premier League games. But the performance against Chelsea was a reminder of their potential.

“He just asks us to believe,” says Onyeka. “That’s the word we use right now: ‘believe’. Teams go through these moments. He wants us to stick together and bounce back. He’s a great manager, he wants every player to believe we can do it.”

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League clash between Brentford and Chelsea

Onyeka’s first Brentford appearance came against Arsenal on the opening day of the 2021/22 Premier League season, when the west London side announced themselves to the top flight with a memorable 2-0 win at their rocking home ground.

“I was so nervous,” Onyeka remembers with a smile. “It was a great experience, winning against a big side like Arsenal.

“I was thinking at some point in my career I wanted to play in the Premier League but it happened so soon. It wasn’t something I was expecting to happen in that period but I’m glad it did.”

A similar result on Saturday would be even more special – and add another highlight to Onyeka’s remarkable story.

Watch Arsenal vs Brentford live on Sky Sports Premier League from 5pm on Saturday; kick-off 5.30pm.

Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight showdown with Francis Ngannou takes place on Friday March 8, live on Sky Sports Box Office with the main event expected around 11pm. Book Joshua v Ngannou now!

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